One of the most effective ways to improve your own digital and social media marketing is to study brands that have mastered the art.
McDonald’s is an iconic fast food brand, so they’d be excused for focusing on the fries and letting their reputation market itself. But in actual fact, McDonald’s has been responsible for some of our favourite funny ads of recent years.
Let’s take a look at the very best examples, and pick up some tips for using comedy in digital marketing along the way…
Funny McDonald’s Adverts
1. Ball Pit — McCafé advert
This 2020 advert follows a coffee-drinker’s doomed visit to a ridiculously hipster coffee shop, where customers pay for an ‘experience’ rather than a straightforward coffee. There’s plenty of visual gags to enjoy here — from the ball pit, to the barista’s deliciously awkward dance. It’s tied together by a strong core idea rooted in the classic “Should’ve gone to Specsavers…” model of marketing.
2. McCafé — 2017 advert
In this predecessor to the advert above, we see a series of customers experience disappointment at the hands of hipster baristas. This example demonstrates how one strong comedy idea can generate more than enough jokes for multiple adverts. If the funny observation at the heart of your campaign remains relevant for years to come, there’s no need to completely reinvent the wheel each time you need a new advert!
3. Swimming — Saver Menu advert
This short clip packs a punch thanks to a smart, well-timed visual gag. Note how the joke is revealed precisely halfway through the advert (ten seconds in). Filmmakers and screenwriters call this the midpoint — by making sure something funny, exciting or important happens halfway through your film (however short it may be) you give yourself a fighting chance of keeping the viewers’ interest.
Now, this ad is only twenty seconds long, but the lesson can be applied to longer pieces. Lots of adverts start to ‘sag’ or feel boring around the halfway point, before gearing up for a big finish. Don’t make the same mistake — in a world oversaturated with digital content, you can’t afford to bore your audience for even a second — their attention can unsubscribe at any time, so work out what your ad’s midpoint is going to be, long before the cameras roll!
4. Free Range Freshly Cracked Eggs
If consumers often make false assumptions about your product, rebutting them with comedy is one of the boldest and most effective moves you can make. This advert from 2016 used visual comedy to convey the message that the eggs in a sausage and egg McMuffin are, contrary to popular belief, real.
We love the surreal opening image, and Sam’s dream sequence — which feel like they’re straight out of a heightened US sitcom — while the chicken interview calls to mind mockumentaries like This Country or People Just Do Nothing. Don’t be afraid to adopt elements of the comedic style from TV shows or films that you find funny. As soon as you twist it to paint your brand as the hero, you’ll find you’ve got something unique and original.
5. The No-Subtext Advert with Joe Marler
Most advertising, funny or not, relies on the audience’s innate ability to see the link between two ideas. For this advert with rugby player Joe Marler, McDonald’s decided to do away with subtext and make a joke of him spelling it out. The success or failure of this ad rode on Joe’s comedy performance ability. Don’t try this with any old talent! While he’s no Duncan from Blue, Joe doesn’t have years of performance experience with a boy band to draw on (as far as we’re aware).
Bonus tip: How much do you think this advert cost to shoot? We can’t say for sure, but aside from Joe’s fee (and of course some treats for his fluffy co-star), we’d guess it was in the region of £0. When you’ve got a strong idea and a tight, funny script, you don’t need shell out on flashy production to make an impact.
6. Susie Dent vs Lethal Bizzle
Sticking with the theme of celebrity endorsements, this ad sees two well-known wordsmiths from the worlds of grime and Dictionary Corner battle it out in a ‘slang-ing match’. Some will find this funnier than others (welcome to the highly subjective world of comedy!) and while it doesn’t get any belly laughs from us, we wanted to give McDonald’s a massive pat on the back for experimenting with form and incorporating live, improvised comedy performance in advertising!
7. Our eggs are real free range eggs!
McDonald’s is very, very keen to remind the world that they use free range eggs. Here’s another ad on that theme. As long as they keep using comedy to do it, we’re not complaining! If you’ve spent any time at all hanging out with us here at White Label Comedy, you’re highly likely to have read the phrase ‘layered comedy’ more than a few times. This ad has more tasty layers than a Big Mac — with jokes in the voiceover, physical comedy, text jokes, and a delightfully expressive performance from the lead to boot.
And what’s the take home message, for those who missed it? THE EGGS ARE REAL, DAMN IT!
8. ‘We could…’ McCafé advert
This is another of our favourite adverts for the McCafé’s no-nonsense approach to coffee. Any ad that makes jokes at the expense of competitors (whether general or specific) carries the risk of alienating some viewers. However, McDonald’s can safely poke fun at hipster coffee shops without alienating their ideal customer — and there’s a lot of fun to be poked, clearly — because they know the coffee snob demographic will never be interested in their product anyway.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this round up of the top funny McDonald’s adverts. If you’ve been inspired to use comedy in your own. marketing, check out our Ultimate Guide to Comedy in Social Media Marketing — and remember to keep checking back here, as our list of favourite funnies from McDonald’s is constantly growing!